I heard someone recently describe Twitter as a social network where the users hate the service and they hate each other. That's unflattering, but I think it's also completely accurate.
I've made friends thanks to Twitter, I've grown my work by being active there, and some of the funniest stuff I've ever seen have been in tweets, but I also kind of hate who I turn into when I'm there. I'm not my best self, and I don't think anyone else is either.
Jaron Lanier wrote this for the New York Times today:
When I compare Mr. Musk, Mr. Trump and Ye, I see a convergence of personalities that were once distinct. The garish celebrity playboy, the obsessive engineer and the young artist, as different from one another as they could be, have all veered not in the direction of becoming grumpy old men, but into being bratty little boys on a schoolyard. Maybe we should look at what social media has done to these men.
Maybe it's a certain personality type that's more likely to go down this road, but I see it all around; people who are kind and polite in other mediums turn into sarcastic little shits on Twitter. And I'm definitely throwing bricks from a glass house here; I don't think I'm terrible on Twitter, but I'm definitely the worst version of myself there.
None of this is new under Musk, but his completely inept and heartless ownership of the company so far has made people wonder, "what the fuck am I even getting out of this anymore?"
I've been around for a long time and I've seen people get angry at Twitter, only to come back a few weeks later when things cooled off, so the smart money is on the status quo returning in a few weeks.
That said, the difference this time is that Musk really seems like he's moved into his supervillain phase and people are actively rooting for Twitter to fail. I don't wish hardship on Twitter's rank-and-file employees, but honestly I find myself hoping the ship goes down as well.
But here's the thing: Twitter scratches a very specific itch, and despite all I've said above, it does provide value that I literally can't get anywhere else today. In order for many in our "tech twitter" community to go somewhere else, we need something that scratches the same itch, but offers a better experience. I know people want that to be Mastodon, but I really don't see it, so if you've got a great idea for a text-based social network, now would be a great time to start building.